Saturday, August 26, 2006

 

Instant Expert: Human Evolution

A Key Topic Report from New Scientist: The incredible story of our evolution from ape ancestors spans 6 million years or more, and features the acquirement of traits from bipedal walking, large brains, hairlessness, tool-making, hunting and harnessing fire, to the more recent development of language, art, culture and civilisation.

Darwin's The Origin of Species, published in 1859, suggested that humans were descended from African apes. However, no fossils of our ancestors were discovered in Africa until 1924, when Raymond Dart dug up the 'Taung child' - a 3-million to 4 million-year-old Australopithecine.

Over the last century, many spectacular discoveries have shed light on the history of the human family. Somewhere between 12 and 19 different species of early humans are recognised, though palaeoanthropologists bitterly dispute how they are related. Famous fossils include the remarkably complete 'Lucy', dug up in Ethiopia in 1974, and the astonishing 'hobbit' species, Homo floresiensis, found on an Indonesian island in 2004.

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